Is life repeating itself in a strange way? Is everything a cycle? Is there a parallel world? I think about this type of S a lot. Your humble reporter, first of all, thinks way, way, way, way sometimes very difficult. I have an obsessive-compulsive mind – a blessing sometimes, and a curse on others. When it comes to my time covering avalanche, I feel like this is kind of a strange new act, in parallel universe fashion.
So, Avalanche is 2-0 up in the Stanley Cup Final against a team from Florida. Twenty-six years ago this month, I was in Florida for the 3rd Stanley Cup Final against the other team from that big state to the south that’s mostly bordered by the Atlantic. The first game in the 1996 Cup Final was a tight match for Avs. The second game was a seven-goal difference in favor of Colorado, 8-1.
That series of sweep ended. Will this ever happen again, albeit with a new main cast, a new location and at a different time? Heck if you know.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how similar it all was since that time – in a completely different way. Do I have any meaning?
Some stories from the 1996 Cup Final:
- I’ve mentioned this before, but the time I thought Avalanche had its first trophy in hand was part of a small media discussion with Patrick Roy, outside the avalanche dressing room at the old McNichols Sports Arena. It was after the first game, a 3-1 win in an avalanche, that the loser, the Rat Pack Panthers, took a 1-0 lead in the second half over the very nervous McNichols. Goals by Scott Young, Uwe Krupp and Mike Ritchie made the final 3-1.
- Roy was standing against the wall in the hallway that divides the avalanche chamber from the outside of the lower bowl. His foot was standing on the wall, and his demeanor was quite relaxed. He smiled a lot and laughed easily. He knew the series was over – he tells me this after many years. He just knew. Florida got the best of it in the early jump, but it didn’t. The match the following night was an 8-1 avalanche, featuring a natural hat-trick from Peter Forsberg.
- A lot of people asked me today: “Is this the best Avs team ever?”
- I have to win two more games, then I can make an honest decision on this answer.
- But, like many of you, I think this was probably the best game I’ve ever seen in an avalanche game last night. Unfortunately, that game brings back another moment in the team’s past. Avalanche lost Game 3 in Detroit in the 1997 Western Conference Finals. They were the Stanley Cup defenders. Patrick Roy and Claude Lemieux sat on a makeshift media platform inside the Joe Louis Arena and were united in the wake of media questions wondering if their time as champion was up. “Let’s play,” Roy said. “They haven’t seen our best game yet.”
- And the Red Wings won’t see her the next night, either. Detroit won easily, making it a 3-1 series. Essentially, Stephen Stamkos, who last night looked like a cross between Fagin from “Oliver Twist” and Merle Haggard, said Avalanche hasn’t seen the best Lightning game yet and cautioned the media against writing a Lightning obituary yet.
- (By the way: ESPN’s “Unrivaled” Avalanche-Red Wings comes out next Sunday. You won’t want to miss it. And not just because you’re really going to be in it. Oh, did someone say that book helped shame me for mentioning that).
- You can’t rely on anyone though. Avalanche fans shouldn’t feel overly confident right now. Or do we all not remember last year’s Vegas series?
- Lightning will give him everything he has tomorrow night. They are the two-time champions of the cup. The first trophy was awarded when they had $18 million more on payroll than other teams, and they beat Dallas in the Bubble Final in Edmonton. And awarded, the second trophy was against a team from their own conference in the form of a strangely created supplement, in an outrageous series played with few fans in Montreal. Both cups necessitated the shortening of seasons. But they won. They are undoubtedly proud of these rings and will bring everything they have for tomorrow’s match to defend them.
- Lightning is facing a real team this time around, in a real season. So, let’s see what they get tomorrow.
- And I know this sounds trivial. But, yeah, I’ve had some reservations against the Lightning Dynasty for a while now. They’ve won two trophies in unconventional years. So, sorry, but that’s not the same, no matter how much backers want them to say.
- One thing that still worries me about the avalanche: 1. Can Kuemper play a real money game on the road? 2. If Burakowski goes out with Kadri, should that forward depth be missed in a match like this?
- This next game will really say a lot about Avs. Although I will say this: I thought the Avs were going back to their old, stifling nature in Game 5 on their home ground against St. Louis in the second round. And they proved me wrong, with bell winner Darren Helm grabbing the series. But, that doesn’t change the fact that Avs still has another hurdle to jump across to be the world hockey champions. The third match will be tomorrow night at 6 pm Al-Jabal time on ABC.
- A few more memories from the 1996 Cup Final: 1. Mark Quesla bought me a pair of shorts at the Miami Beach Sheraton, when he wanted to take a walk along the beach but I only packed my long pants. I still have those pants in the drawer. Picture me in ’90s style shorts walking in loafers on the beach, and you’ll get an unfortunate photo of me in 1996. This might come as a shock, but I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.
- Meet Jack Nicklaus before Game Three at Miami Arena.
- Game four ended at around 1 a.m. ET. The story was presented at about 2 am. Just in time to beat the midnight deadline Denver Post time. Guys from Hockey News gave me a ride to the NHL after-game party, with free booze and shrimp. Back to hotel around 3:30 AM, 1 hour of ‘sleep’ after Mogo Wino and Shrembo. 4:30 fare to the airport at 5, on a plane with closed doors at 5:45 or so.
- I will not share those memories with the world.
- Cover the show the next day.